(CBS) — The users and opponents of e-cigarettes fiercely debate the health issues surrounding the new “vaping” culture, but one thing is for sure: the rechargeable, electrical devices aren’t supposed to explode while being used.
2-Investigator Pam Zekman looks into this troubling trend.
“When it happened it was basically like a pipe bomb,” said e-cigarette smoker Evan Spahlinger.
Spahlinger’s e-cigarette exploded when he reached to take a puff of vapor.
“I had third degree burns to my entire face,” Spahlinger said. “I had burns in my entire esophagus, and my lungs and battery acid in my lungs.”
Jennifer Ries’ e-cigarette exploded while it was charging in her car.
“A blow torch type of fire and then an explosion,” Ries explained.
Ries suffered second degree burns to her leg.
The internet has other examples of close calls showing exploding e-cigarettes.
Government statistics show there have been more than two dozen e-cigarette explosions or fires in recent years.
“You actually have a better chance of being killed by a falling vending machine than you do of your device exploding on you,” said Antony Owens of Land of Vapes.
The vape shop owner says most problems occur due to user error.
“If a battery is over charged, just like a cell phone battery if your cell phone battery is overcharged for too long, its left on the charger for too long that can destroy the battery,” said Owens.
Owens says dealers need to give consumers proper safety information when they buy a vaping device.
“All of it can be avoided,” Owens added.
Batteries must be inserted correctly, otherwise the device can overheat and catch fire or explode. It can be confusing to the novice user because many brands of e-cigarettes do not mark their batteries with a plus and minus sign.
“The e-cigarette industry today is like the wild west,” said Joel Africk, Respiratory Health Association president and CEO.
Africk says consumers have no idea what they’re buying and putting in their mouth.
“If there are people, adults that must use e-cigarettes we think they should be regulated properly and labeled properly so that people don’t get hurt,” said Africk.
Evan Spahlinger has filed suit against the manufacturer of the e-cigarette he was using and the vaping shop that sold it. Neither would comment.
“If i would have known that there is a risk of me fighting for my life and being in a hospital, i would have never picked it up,” Africk said.
The Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association says consumers must use the correct chargers and follow guidelines when recharging which Evan Spahlinger says he did. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration has proposed a rule change which would allow it to regulate e-cigarettes for safety issues, including whether they contain dangerous chemicals.